Iran-Gulf-US strategic quagmire


Tariq Khalil
RECENT US targeting General Qasem Soleimani and Iran’s counter missile attacks at American bases in Iraq has created milieu that alarm bells rang all over the world . Nevertheless, Iran is a very mature nation and has history of thousands of years. As a nation they know how to stand against odds and difficulties. They will react in a calculated and mature manner with time and space in mind. Their missile response on US targets in Iraq is a testimony. The American killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani was the decision of US President alone, without calculating the impact in overall global changing strategic scenario. The effect has been opposite. The response by American Congressmen and statesmen has been sharp, scathing from both sides of the spectrum, Democrat and Republican alike. American people are certainly vocal and not ready for another useless war on taxpayers’ money. USA has sunk trillions in Afghan and Iraq wars with no end in sight. Further, it is election year and Mr Trump and his Party need some issue to rally not only in middle America on one side but also voters in metropolitan cities. Trump’s impeachment issue is another problem being cited for more aggressiveness in Trump.
This apart Middle East, Gulf and Iran in the changing geo-strategic scenario are in a flux due to new triangular power centres emerging. They find American cowboy behaviour not only is disgusting but also emanating danger signals in world capitals. Much has been destroyed in follow up of spring operations in the Middle East. All these countries that had great level of prosperity now stand destroyed to a point of abject misery. Ironically, Muslims have been used for mutual destruction. What left is being done now. It is a grand design to make the entire region subservient to greater Israel on one side and ensure complete control on oil/dollar supremacy. And, also oil supply as more than 60 % Europe and Japan is dependent on this supply. The region by itself is a fulcrum in global tug of war in the new emerging power game between Sino-Russian Bloc on one side and the West on the other. It is to keep in check Islamic countries. On the back is Islamophobia to limit its ingress in Europe and USA via immigration.
Iran itself oil rich is also to be reined in. Iran in the past three decades has mastered itself in proxy wars not only in the Middle East, Lebanon and Yemen but also hitting targets far beyond. In the early stages of Islamic revolution, it tried to export its ideology world over. Even in Pakistan, efforts were made to rally Shia sect. It is an open secret that funding was used to create rift. Had it not been the resolute resolve of all the governments and people at large, then it was difficult to deal with sectarianism. India also used Iran platform against Pakistan. Iran-Pakistan border has been frequently used by terrorists not only by Balochi dissidents but also sponsored by Afghan NDS and Indian RAW. Its opposition to CEPC, construction of Chabahar Port to dampen impact of Gwadar Port and in the recent past Security Agreement with India to provide facilities in case of war are a manifestation that efforts have been made to create differences between Pakistan and Iran. Relations between the two countries remained in the cool much of the time. It is now, in recent changing geo-strategic milieu Iran- Pakistan relations have improved. Both countries felt the need for each other.
Further Iran dislike for Arabs is a pretext or rouse America uses to fleece Arabs by raising impending threat to them. The Arab-Iran dislike for each other has been from last 12 hundred years and it reached its peak in 15th Century. This has been exploited by both West and US . Pakistan’s effort to bridge the differences is not an easy task but lessening of tension is not only vital for the region but in the prime interest of Pakistan as well.
The region, therefore, is a centre point of global powers’ tug of war. Each is interested for its own reasons. Gulf is important oil route for Japan and Europe. Israel’s greater game plan is to spread its influence not only up to Iran but also destabilise Pakistan. At this point, India-Israel interests coincide. They want to see Pakistan if not broken, at least weakened and subservient. Iran has been a launching pad. To keep power balance in the Middle East, Russia has been in the recent past an active player. Even in the recent flare up on General Soleimani and Iranian response behind the scene Russia-China efforts have played a role to keep Trump in check.
Pakistan’s interest is, therefore, genuine and vital for three reasons: One, Pakistan cannot afford any involvement in case of any flare up. Two, Iranian situation and peace is important for Afghan Peace Talks, especially in future scenario Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey common front can pay dividends. Three, any opening of new front in the west will stress its resources on eastern front which is not only active but carries a real threat from India. In case of any war in Iran, a wave of refugees to Pakistan, can ill-afford especially when situation is worsening in Kashmir in particular and mainland India in general. A real threat of genocide of Muslims is very much possible and looming. Pakistan always managed to balance Shia- Sunni communities and can ill-afford any damage to this excellent relationship. Pakistan has just come out of 18 years of war against terrorism at a great cost. The wounds are still fresh and Pakistan cannot and will not allow such a scenario to re-emerge by allowing space in the wake of worsening of Iran situation. There are sleeping cells which still exist.
Pakistan policy stance thus is very appropriate and apt. It will not involve itself in any side. Rather, it is making efforts in its own way to defuse tension vis-à-vis all players. It is a policy stance, in strategic parlance termed as strategic defiance. A defiance against pressures to continue neutral/non-aligned policy. In physical terms it manifests strong defence capability, strong economy and good governance. Patriotic and not the least honest media is vital to advance Pakistan’s case.
—The writer, a retired Brigadier, is decorated veteran of 65 & 71 wars and a defence analyst based in Lahore.